Googles policy on Widget Bait & my thoughts

  • 0
  • April 15, 2008

Widgets are an excellent way of building links but sometimes Google gives penalties to the most “successful” websites.

Former SEOmoz employee Matt Inman was able to build 500,000 links using widgets but because his methods were outside the acceptable widget link guidelines his sites were given penalties.

Most people seem to think there is some ambiguity about how Google handles widget links but really there isn’t. Matt Cutts has made it quite clear that some links are OK and others aren’t.

In this post about getting value from scrapers by adding links to the footer of your RSS feed Matt said it was OK as long as the anchor text wasn’t spammy. Basically that means that adding a link to your blog saying “Post from Blogstorm” is acceptable while adding a link saying “Post from Blogstorm search engine optimisation blog” might be deemed to be going overboard. My guess is that in most industries Google won’t be too concerned about this but if you have a blog about payday loans then Google might take action.

The same principle applies to widgets. If you use the name of your site or the name of your widget as the link then it’s not a problem. Really the link should go to the homepage of the widget rather than the homepage of the site. As soon as you start using keyword rich anchor text and linking to your homepage it’s not really surprising that Google gets upset.

This is OK:
My quiz widget
This isn’t OK:
Search engine

I don’t understand why people are getting confused by this? Google wants to rank the most useful sites at the top of their results. They don’t want to rank the site that has the most popular widgets. If you are going to make the effort to use widget bait or any other type of linkbait at least take the time to make it defensible.

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Ciaran


    As I’ve explained over at SEOmoz, the problem here arose as soon as Matt suggested that off-topic linkbait was a good thing to do.

    As soon as Matt offers advice, people are going to follow it. Nuff said.

    • Patrick Altoft

      I think the linkbait is fine, it’s just how you execute it that matters.

      Google probably needs to write down some specific guidelines for this as it’s going to keep cropping up.

  • Kenneth Dreyer

    Great Post Patrick.

    What’s your thoughts on having your companyname in the anchortext and pointing it to the frontpage (“Power by My Company” > instead of (“Powered by My Company” > ?

    • Patrick Altoft

      I think that should be OK, I’ve done it in the past.

      If you only generate 1000 links then you will be fine whatever you do. Once you start generating 500,000 links then Google starts looking deeper into the intent of your widget.

  • Scott

    A pretty good reason to have the best keyword domain you can afford so that ‘keyword’ is ‘company name’.

    • Patrick Altoft

      Quite, the owner of should try it.

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  • James Vardy

    Patrick does that mean that I should try it too.

  • Patrick Altoft

    James I think if you do widget bait in the right way then you are OK, otherwise you are taking a big risk.

  • James Vardy

    Patrick, can you look at my site and give me some advise on the links side as I do not want to go down the route of paying a company £1000 per month.

  • Curtains

    patrick, can please help in how i can manage my site ranks well in competition

  • electric curtains

    to the previous message…

    there are a number of search ranking software around to assist you to rank well in the competition. Search google for IBP or seo elite

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